Whitman Public Library

Ruth Graves Wakefield/Toll House Collection

Toll House fire
Detail from: Toll House fire
Ruth G. Wakefield was born on June 17, 1903 and died at the age of 73, in 1977. She graduated from Framingham State Normal School with a degree in Household Arts. Ruth worked as a dietitian in a hospital and taught Home Economics at Brockton High School for a short time.

In 1930, Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased a Cape Cod-style tollhouse in Whitman, Massachusetts with the intention of running it as a tourist lodge. Using her skills in the kitchen, Ruth Wakefield soon gained a reputation for excellent meals, especially desserts. Ruth Wakefield enjoyed improving traditional Colonial recipes.

One of Ruth Wakefield's favorite recipes was for "Butter Drop Do" cookies. The original recipe called for baker's chocolate. While making a batch of these cookies, Ruth Wakefield substituted 'bits' from a semi-sweet chocolate bar, because she did not have the baker's chocolate. Instead of melting like the baker's chocolate, the 'bits' softened, but retained their shape. The resulting cookie became very popular at the Toll House.

The chocolate bar had been a gift from Andrew Nestle of the Nestle Chocolate Company. As the "Toll House cookie" became more and more popular, sales of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bars increased. Nestle began packaging a special chopper to help cooks 'chip' the chocolate bar. On March 20, 1939 Ruth Wakefield and Nestle struck a deal--the Nestle Co. would print the "Toll House Cookie" recipe on their packages of semi-sweet chocolate and Ruth Wakefield would receive a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. Eventually, in 1939, Nestle began offering tiny morsels of chocolate in convenient, ready-to-use packages.

Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield retired in 1968 and moved to Duxbury, Massachusetts. Ruth Wakefield is buried in the Mayflower Cemetery in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

There were several attempts to operate the Toll House as a restaurant, but they met with failure. On New Year's Eve 1984, a fire that originated in the kitchen and spread through the air duct burnt the Toll House restaurant to the ground.

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